Completing our efforts on the Rio de Los Pinos, Western Rivers Conservancy has permanently protected some of the finest trout water in Colorado. In October, we conveyed our second property on the Los Pinos to the Rio Grande National Forest, protecting an additional 268 acres of prime open space and securing public access to a stunning stretch fly fishing water. Combined with the adjacent parcel we conserved last year, the land traces more than a mile of the Rio de Los Pinos along some its most accessible reaches, just off Highway 17, northeast of Chama, New Mexico.
In a rare opportunity in north-central Washington, WRC is tackling the needs of conservation, community and local industry by working to acquire a property to benefit all three.
Lake Wenatchee is an alpine jewel in the North Cascades and the source of the Wenatchee River, a crucially important stream for imperiled salmon, steelhead, bull trout and other cold-water fish. Immediately downstream of the lake, a stream called Nason Creek flows into the Wenatchee, injecting the river with life-giving cold water and providing habitat for multiple species of imperiled fish.
Colorado’s Little Cimarron River is a magnificent wild trout stream on its upper reaches. Portions of its middle reaches, however, are dewatered through withdraws during the hot months of summer, segmenting habitat between the upper and lower river. Western Rivers Conservancy has been working in partnership with Colorado Water Trust to return perennial flows to the Little Cimarron. CWT recently wrote a great piece for "Your Water Colorado" blog that explains this project in detail – and how, together, we are making history on this small but important Colorado trout stream.
"When standing on the ranch, you can’t quite see the river. If it’s a good autumn, the snowy peaks of the San Juan Mountains within the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area backstop the narrow valley to the south, and the tops of the turning cottonwoods peek out of a ravine to the west. Just standing there among the cow pies you’d suspect, and be correct, that the river nearby but just out of sight is renewed by those melting snows each spring. The cottonwoods betray the river’s path below the ranch.
During most springs, runoff on the Little Cimarron River that meanders through those cottonwoods fills each water right’s claim to its flows to the brim and then some. Water taken out at the McKinley Ditch headgate upstream winds along the steep slopes and eventually to this tableland, where acres irrigated since federal government patent and first appropriation in 1886 produce hay and cattle. Back at the river, water flows down the Little Cimarron to the Cimarron and eventually to the Gunnison River, upstream of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and then, finally, to the Colorado River."
We were excited to see this recent article in Steamboat Today about how our recent efforts at Sarvis Creek will benefit the Yampa River watershed as a whole.
"The U.S. Forest Service has the privilege of managing public lands for multi-use, and a key indicator as to the overall condition of those lands is the health of the watersheds on National Forest. Watershed health has many public benefits, including importance for drinking water, agriculture and recreation, to name a few.
Management of public land and their associated watersheds is complex to begin with and can be made even more so when privately-owned inholdings within forest boundaries add another layer of complexity.
The USFS thinks that contiguous land ownership lends itself to consistent management, and so the agency’s lands program works to consolidate blocks of public lands whenever opportunities arise. Management becomes less complicated when land ownership is not fragmented, and thus implementing on-the-ground projects — which benefit overall watershed health — is easier and more efficient."
This month, Western Rivers Conservancy completed its second land acquisition on Washington’s Big Sheep Creek, placing 1,440 more acres surrounding this critical stream on the path toward conservation. Now that we own all 2,440 acres of the Bennett Meadows Tract, we can focus on transferring this incredible assemblage of riverland, meadowland, wetlands and conifer forest into the long-term care of a conservation steward.